Eleven wins in the last twelve games. Three sweeps and a series win. Moving ahead in the AL Wild Card race game by game by game. Back. To. Back. Sweeps!! The season’s end results may still officially be one great big question mark but, oh my lord, is it ever fun to be an Angels fan right now!! The guys are just on fire. The games are exciting and hard fought on both sides…and they actually mean something. I mean, Friday’s game against the Tigers alone was everything I think September baseball should be.
The best part of the whole thing is…well, let’s be honest here. The best part from my perspective is the Angels. But almost as wonderful as that best part is the fact that, with both leagues’ Wild Card races running hot and heavy, there are a lot of fan bases enjoying their September every bit as much as I am and there is a lot of great baseball out there for the enjoyment of all. I have to say, if this is what September’s going to look like from here on out, my journey towards acceptance of the new playoffs format isn’t going to be a very long one at all.
Soooooooo, long time no blog. And, thus, we have much to discuss…
Jered Weaver’s Tendonitis
On the one hand, it’s hard to lose Jered Weaver in the rotation at this point in the season and no injury news is ever welcome…except…well, I have to admit that I was actually quite relieved to hear about the tendonitis. It means that the trainers have identified a clear and fixable reason why Weaver’s been having so many troubles in his last few starts. Because, seriously, I was starting to worry that somehow…you know what? Let’s just not even go there, actually. Suffice to say, while I wasn’t panicking or anything yet, I was starting to get a little worried. Now, I’m just hoping Weaver and the staff balance the team’s needs appropriately with his body’s needs so that, when he does return, he is as fit and well as any pitcher ever can be come September…and October because it’s going to happen this year. I can feel it!
And, in the meantime, kudos to the rest of the rotation and to the bullpen for kicking ass and taking names! …even if it has involved occasional indulgences in fan torture. Hey, we’re supposed to elevate our heart rates for at least a half hour a day, right? 😉
Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales
I swear, as each season rolls to the end, the race to secure a playoff berth becomes as much a game of chicken with the lurking specter of player injuries as it is a competition with the other teams. Sadly, the Angels have flinched a few times already and a couple of players are fighting injuries. Albert Pujols’ strained calf had as much potential for disaster as Weaver tendonitis but, thanks to all parties involved, the team is rolling with this punch as well. Even if running the bases looks painful, Pujols has gamely taken over the primary DH role for the time being and is just raking at the plate, and all with a huge smile on his face and plenty of encouragement for the whole team on his lips. I was always a fan, but now it’s safe to say I’m a huge fan!
And as for the other half of this equation, Kendrys Morales temporarily resumed his old role at first base so Pujols could rehab the calf. At first I wondered how this was going to work. Kendrys has played first here and there throughout the season and it is clear that he can still move and make some pretty tricky plays. But day in and day out? On that ankle? Nearly two weeks later, Kendrys is still working out just fine at first and he also continues to absolutely pound the ball. Seriously, this weekend was as much the Kendrys show as it was the Trout show. Among his many contributions, on Friday the man hit a legit triple. Yes, on that ankle. ‘Nuff said.
Except…if you want to read a little bit more about Kendrys, my latest LA Angels Insider piece is about the accident and his recovery season. Check it out if you get the chance. 🙂
Oh yeah, and Then There’s that Trout Kid…
Mike Trout. Can anyone ever praise this young man enough? I know I can’t, but that won’t stop me from trying. He’s actually going through a bit of a rough patch right now but that still means crucial hits, scoring important runs, back to back leadoff homeruns, leaping and diving plays in center, oh, and a walk off robbed homerun. Yeah, you read that right, a walk off robbed homerun. He began Saturday night’s game by putting the Angels on the board with a leadoff homerun and finished it by robbing Prince Fielder of a home run for the final out, thus earning the Captain Morgan pose salute from Torii Hunter — I don’t know when exactly the guys started this bit of fantastic silliness, but I sure hope it continues.
Watching Trout play baseball is like watching all of the stories I have heard about the Golden Age of baseball come alive before my eyes. And to think, he’s still maturing as a player. I don’t think I can fully wrap my brain around what that might mean for future seasons, but I am thrilled at thought of spending them in a more or less perpetual state of dropped jaw. (Some mother, somewhere: If you don’t close your mouth and stop making that face, your face is going to freeze in that silly shocked expression forever! Angels Fan: As long as I get to keep watching Trouty play, Mom, I don’t care!)
Suffice to say that right now the Angels destiny is firmly in their own hands and those hands – along with their bats, gloves, arms and legs — are looking strong, steady and capable of great things.
Way to go Tigers, coming out of nowhere to land the big free agent bat! That was almost…well…Angelic. 😉 …Ooooh. Kay. And reminiscent of many other teams in other seasons too. But this is an Angels blog. I’ve kind of got this slant going on. And with that slant I have to say, I don’t know which outcome of the deal amuses me more, the fact that this move keeps Prince Fielder out of the AL West? Or the thought that with Migueal Cabrera moving to third base according to today’s reports, Angels fans are likely to see a lot more of Justin Verlander’s “That’s bushleague!” scowl? Pssssst…Angels players bunt. Often and generally very well. Pass it on.
In all seriousness though, I do like the way this offseason is turning out and the role this deal played in it. The Tigers and the Rangers, both already strong teams, were able to make improvements without outright dominating. The Tigers filled the potentially devastating void left by Victor Martinez’ season ending injury in a way that also bumped up their offense. The Rangers did not further bump up an offense that was already pretty much the scariest in the AL, but they did improve their starting rotation. Yes, I know Darvish is unproven, but I just can’t imagine a pitching acquisition that Nolan Ryan approved of so highly turning into a flaming failure.
And the Angels? The Angels made sure they can compete, adding power to a lineup in serious need of just such an infusion and restoring their starting rotation to the promise it had at the beginning of the 2011 season. Remember, for all that our pitching was impressive last season it was primarily spots one through three that did the impressing. The four and five spots were a rotating mixed bag of frequent awfulness speckled with the occasional gem. Other teams patched potential problem spots too. I like the Yankees pitching additions…all the more because they’re both pitchers the Angels hit. I find it interesting and potentially beneficial that the Red Sox have gone out of their way to add good clubhouse guys into the mix with their All Stars. Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat a dead, repeatedly reanimated as a zombie and then beaten dead again and again and again, Bostonian horse here. But suffice it to say, I think this may prove to be a more powerful strategy than folks are currently giving it credit for.
And no, this isn’t me being some sort of Mary Sue saying, Yay, everyone is equal now. Let’s get out there, give the other team a big hug, and don’t bother keeping score. This is me, the passionate baseball fan saying, I see a lot of well matched, hard fought, competitive as all get out, great baseball games on the horizon in 2012, and that prospect makes me downright giddy. Spring training, you slacker. What’s taking you so long to get here? Come on, pick up the pace already!
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So, I’ve been less than present in the MLBlogs community for the past week now and probably will continue to be so for a few days yet…or not, who can say. No, I’m not one of the bloggers packing it in. And I didn’t finally go off the deep end from some sort of baseball depravation induced psychosis. Heck, I would prefer that. I lost a close friend Sunday. The guy both Seth and thought of as brother. The third of our goofy Three Musketeers band of degenerates. He was only a little older than me, which is to say way, way too young…as if there were a good age for this. He’d been in the hospital all last week and devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it.
My friend – the best bad influence a girl could have, as I called him with fondness – was, among other things, the gent who taught me how to play blackjack. Not the rules, but how to really play – strategies, calculating probabilities, fearlessness. But as anyone who has ever spent serious time at the tables knows, no matter how well you work the probabilities, sometimes the cards just don’t fall in your favor and you need to do something different to change your luck. I haven’t been able to put pen to paper in days. Not for work. Not for blogging. Not for nothing. But today, I made myself bang out this post in response to news that genuinely excited me, in an attempt to “change my luck” by doing a few “normal” things. To quote Marcellus Wallace, I am pretty f-ing far from okay. But I think I am moving closer to a place where I am better able to honor his life with memories that bring smiles rather than floods of tears.
Hey, everyone else has a pun-ny Yu Darvish related headline going on right now. I was feeling left out. 😉
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jon Daniels is the GM but the Rangers sneaking in under the radar to win negotiation rights with Yu Darvish when other teams were considered more highly favored was so sneaky clever that it reminded me of the Adrian Beltre deal last season, wherein I did say Nolan Ryan, you stinker…or, you know, some colorful approximation there of. And, hey, I applaud sneaky. I delight in clever. The unexpected team signing the coveted player (as long as it isn’t instead of the Angels, mind you) makes me outright giggle in approving glee. I just wish those Rangers weren’t so darned good at it.
Of course everyone’s divided over whether the Rangers signing Darvish will ultimately be good for them or bad. Depending on who you talk to, Darvish will either be the second coming of the Phillies 2011 starting rotation, Nolan Ryan and Chris Carpenter rolled all into one pitcher…or Dice-K part deux. But, but, he’s going to have a hard time adapting to the MLB, say the latter contingent…we have a different mound…a different ball…we have different philosophies on throwing before a game…He’ll melt in the Texas heat…blah, blah blah. While most of that sounds like valid concerns, I just have a feeling that if Darvish agrees to terms with Texas it’s all going to work out just fine for them. Lately Jon Daniels seems to have a pretty much un-erring eye for picking just the right players to fit the Rangers’ needs each season and I have no reason to believe this will work out any differently…Grrrrr.
So, am I worried? Eh, I say bring it on! Even if they sign Prince Fielder too…though, understandably I am rooting for anyone who isn’t the Rangers and preferably who isn’t in the AL West to sign Prince Fielder, but still. Bring it. Not because I feel particularly assured of the outcome, mind you. Even if the Rangers sign an, I assume, stellar Darvish, I still say the Angels have the better starting rotation. Even with Albert Pujols on the Angels I still say that the Rangers have the stronger lineup. I think the outcome of each matchup between the two teams is anyone’s guess.
No, I say bring it on because the more this offseason takes shape, the more certain I feel that almost every game the Angels and the Rangers play one another in 2012 is going to be the sort of game that everyone is posting about the next day in heavily exclamation pointed italics peppered with phrases like “Wow!,” “Amazing!” and “I will tell my grandchildren about…” Okay, maybe that last phrase is exaggerating a tad…but maybe it’s not. And I. Can’t. Wait!
Of course the 2011 AL Cy Young Award went to Justin Verlander and of course it was unanimous. Congratulations and a hearty well deserved to him! For the voting to have gone any other way would have been a crime. Verlander was just plain that dominant this season. However I was quite pleased to see Jered Weaver so solidly in second place in the voting. I think that in most other years Weaver’s 2011 performance would have earned him the Cy Young and was thrilled to see him get a subtle bit of recognition for his efforts. Next season, if he can stay away from the flu, who knows what he might accomplish! And I do have to note that I am equally pleased to be among the very few teams that actually handed Verlander a loss this season. The season may have ended with more of a whimper than anything else for the Angels but the team definitely had its moments.
Second proved to be an ongoing theme for Angels this season, with Mark Trumbo also finishing in second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Rookie of the Year wasn’t nearly so cut and dried as the Cy Young competition this season with many strong rookies in contention. Congratulations to Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays. He is one of several players I would have been pleased to see win this honor. While I certainly think Mark Trumbo was equally worthy, I did expect his lower on base percentage would keep him from actually taking home the award…though that certainly didn’t stop the players who faced Trumbo this season from recognizing his difference making bat and the work he’s put in at first.
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That old hot stove is starting its pre-boil routine with a few unexpected quick deal bubbles rising here and there. And, of course, with the GMs meeting this week it certainly adds to the feeling that we’re all waiting. Quietly. Holding our breath. For some. Large. Important. Announcement…that in reality probably isn’t coming any time soon. Oh well, even though most years they don’t tell us much of anything, the GM meetings always intrigue me. I understand that the format is probably just like the baseball version of any number of other industry conferences, which is to say more than a little dull, but in my mind I always want to make them absolutely fascinating. Like the basic conference format should echo the passion and excitement of the subject matter. I mean, this is baseball after all! Or maybe it’s just that after attending so many dull business conferences in the mortgage industry and when I worked in fundraising, I want to live vicariously though someone, even if it’s only in my own head. 😀
So, what do you think the GM meetings are like? More like this:
Don’t let the cute pajamas fool you. Slumber party politics are often the most vicious. 😉
With the rumors and red herrings that sometimes come out of these meetings, it’s clear some sort of fantasy is going on. Maybe it’s more like Rick’s Café Americain with all manner of secret deals, illicit gambling and other hijinks going on just barely undetected and Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder playing the part of letters of transit…yeah. Yeah! We’ll go with that one.
World Series Here They Come
Cardinals and Rangers it is! It may not be the World Series matchup I was envisioning at any point this season, but if the LDS and LCS were any indication, this should be a fun series. So I’ll be rooting for the Cardinals then. It’s petty, to be sure. But I just can’t root for the team that took the AL-West. The Rangers absolutely deserve to be where they are. They have one of the scariest line-ups in baseball and have played lights out all season long. But, call it sour grapes, call it immaturity as a fan, darned if I can bring myself to root for them. That said, if the Cardinals want to beat these guys and end the season as World Series champions, as I hope they will, their starting rotation needs to be more consistent. I don’t think you’re going to be able to give up three homeruns to the Rangers in the first two innings and still pull off a win. Although, crazy, amazing things have been happening for the last month or so. And a come from behind, spoiler of a team that inspires Tony La Russa to disturbing acts of cuteness – Who knew he had it in him? – might just be able to do anything.
I am tired of hearing the about the supposed inevitability of Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee this winter spoken in the sad, hushed tones usually reserved for a terminal cancer diagnosis. “Oh, woe is us! If only there were something anyone could do.” No one passed a law decreeing this must be so. I don’t even recall a petition. And it’s not prophecy. No watery tart rose from a movie set in Python-esque fashion to extend the legendary bat ex-sluggingcalibur to a couple of gits standing there with coconut shells (or would that be peanut shells in this baseball version?). There is something someone can do about it. Prince Fielder can decide to accept the offer Milwaukee is certain to extend and stay.
Strange tractor beam like market forces do not just snatch free agents up and move them from team to team against their will. Free agents make decisions. And as far as decisions go, it’s not as if Prince Fielder is going to be asked to choose between untold riches and a modest living wherein if he saves wisely someday he might be able to send one of his kids to college. He will be asked to choose between millions and even more millions. That said, there is nothing evil or wrong with choosing even more millions. This is a personal, long term career decision and money is an extremely compelling, understandable argument. However, athletes do make decisions for personal reasons too. It’s not as if that just isn’t done. Cliff Lee prefers to play in Philly, even if they weren’t the highest bidder. Jered Weaver preferred not to test the free agent market because he already knew where he wanted to spend his career and didn’t want to haggle indefinitely. So, if Prince Fielder really doesn’t want to leave the Brewers, he doesn’t have to. He can choose to stay. And if he does choose to leave for a higher bidder it will be because there is something he wanted more than he wanted to stay with the Brewers and that’s all there is to that. Not an inevitable tragedy, just a career decision…and one that despite all of the speculation, Fielder has not actually made yet, or at least not made public.
Boston Dirty Laundry
I find what happened in Boston disturbing. No, not the collapse. Not even the finger pointing. A certain amount of that is only to be expected after such a disappointment. No, it was the anonymous, public and extremely personal nature of the finger pointing in the Boston Globe article. The tales of bad attitudes, slacking work ethics, drinking and a manager’s marital and alleged medicinal woes? Back in the day, this is the kind of stuff you would only hear about years later when someone involved decided to spice up a memoir with a few tell alls, if you ever heard about it at all.
And there’s a reason for that: it’s completely unproductive. Airing this sort dirty laundry so very publically doesn’t help a team. It doesn’t help the fans. And it doesn’t help a front office fix problems and move forward. And the anonymous source(s) who provided the dirt know that. No one is going to turn around six months from now and say, “You know what the turning point was? It was that article. It really helped everyone sit down together as a team and pledge to work harder together for a better 2012.” And it bothers me that someone who is close enough to a team to have this kind of information (allegedly – anonymous sources and all that.) would, instead of using it in some productive way, choose to use it to strike out at a team for their own reasons (which, depending on who you think the source(s) is, could be any number of things). The reason I bring this up is not to beat up on Boston. I don’t think this is a uniquely Boston thing at all. But when it comes to this sort of information, I do think that sometimes the old ways are best. Save it for the memoir, when it no longer matters if it’s productive or not anymore and you have to have the guts to put your name on it.